Today is World Bee Day – a day to celebrate one of the hardest working creatures on the planet and to raise awareness of the essential role bees and other pollinators play in keeping people, and the world, healthy!
Pollination is very important as our crops, fruits and vegetables need it to be fertilised – without it, we’d have a lot less fresh food to eat.
Our wonderful partner Seedball – who are passionate about increasing the abundance of British wildflowers, and the wildlife that depends on them – has written this blog for us, which is all about bees bees bees, and on how we can all do our bit to support these fuzzy flying insects… by feeding them.
If you’re looking for an easy shortcut to encourage wildlife into your garden or space, and you want to help to feed the bees, our wildflower seed balls are definitely the way to go…
We’re Ana and Emily and we have an underlying message – we really can make a huge difference to wildlife by growing wildflowers in our outdoor spaces, and when we make it super easy there really is no reason not to.
We met at Aberdeen University in 2010 and were both studying PhDs in conservation. At the time we wanted to grow wildflowers for the bees but were not having much success. We discovered seed balls through the work of Masanobu Fukuoka and spent two years perfecting our own, initially by hand-rolling them on Ana’s kitchen table!
By 2012, we’d created our first wildflower Seedball for feeding the bees, with the range constantly expanding and diversifying over the years. Each mix contains only native wildflowers grown in the UK and has been carefully chosen by experts in the specific field they aim to help.
Seedballs are made of natural clay and peat-free compost to give germination a head start, with native seeds and a sprinkling of chilli powder to deter pests from nibbling on the young shoots. Don’t lose patience with your wildflower growing, although some will bloom in their first year, others will not start to flower or germinate until their second or even third season. A wildflower patch will grow and change over the years, supporting and benefiting many different types of bees, butterflies and pollinators and in-turn other wildlife like hedgehogs, bats and birds.
Since WW2 we have lost a massive 97% or our wildflower meadows, meaning the last 50 years has been witness to huge declines in insects with several, including some bumble bees, sadly becoming extinct. We have over 250 different bees in the UK and each one has a preference to certain types of flower, depending on their lifecycle or length of their tongue.
Amazingly, we only have one native honeybee in the UK and around 24 bumblebees – the rest are made up from little mining bees that look like honeybees but do not live in large colonies and make their nests by excavating a small hole… these are known as solitary bees. Another type of solitary bee is the leaf-cutter, which makes its home from neat semi-circular sections it cuts from leaves or petals, like the silvery leafcutter bee that uses yellow Birdsfoot trefoil petals to line its nest. How cute is that?
Research is beginning to show that each species of native bee has its own special relationship with a wildflower, either based on the time of year they bloom or on where the bee is in its lifecycle.
Bumblebees for instance make a new colony every year and only the newly fertilised queen survives the winter by hibernating. She emerges in early spring hungry and looking for a suitable nesting sight to raise her new brood. Once she has laid her eggs she’ll need pollen to feed her babies and nectar to keep her energy, whilst flying. Soon the first new bees will hatch and be busy collecting pollen and nectar for the rest of their colony, so early flowers like primroses, dandelions and daisies will help.
Letting herbs like Wild Marjoram bloom in the summer and growing wonderful wildflowers like Red Clover will really help feed the bees. You can find both of these in our wildflower mix especially for bees.
Growing a wildflower patch, letting a section of grass grow and popping in a water source are all excellent ways to help the wildlife in your garden. A log-pile will encourage beetles, which in-turn will feed hedgehogs, Night scented flowers will bring in moths and insects that bats need to survive.
Becoming a wildflower warrior is easy! If you don’t have a garden, our mini-meadow bamboo pots are great for an outside windowsill and seeing the bees and butterflies visit is good for the soul. Taking five minutes to watch a bee being busy, or participating in a simple gardening activity like dead-heading or watering, can all have a positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Here are some wildflowers that bees and butterflies love, and which can be found in our Seedball range:
Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
The dainty, lilac blooms that bob on the end of long stalks, can be a common sight on wayside banks at the tail-end of summer. The pom-pom-like nature of its flower has given rise to alternative names such as ‘Lady’s pincushion’ and ‘blue bonnets’.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
While not as common as it’s white relation, red clover is still often found in lawns and parks throughout the UK. It’s reddish-pink flowers form oval clusters and it’s leaves – while still recognisably ‘cloverleaf’ shaped – are larger, downy and marked with a white ‘V’.
Birdfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Sunny yellow flowers, this trailing plant is fab in a hanging basket. Also known as ‘eggs and bacon’ because of the yellow and orange hue of the pea-like flowers.
Wild Marjoram (Origanum Vulgare)
Pretty rosy pink flowers on a square stem are a real bee and butterfly magnet. The leaves are wonderfully aromatic too.
Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
The tallest and most elegant of our native buttercups, this plant sometimes reaches a height of 90cm and has a preference for moist soils.
A world without bees is becoming more of a reality, as sadly these amazing creatures are in decline. Here are some other ways you can help bees to survive and thrive.